Like bagels and rye bread, challah was introduced to America by immigrants arriving through New York in the early 1900s from Eastern and Central Europe. Originally, the word challah referred to a small portion of dough that was placed in the oven as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Over time, not only has it evolved into a braided brioche-like loaf of bread that is eaten during Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but is the key component in superior year-round American dishes like Challah Bread French Toast and Challah Bread Pudding.
- Stand Mixer with dough hook attachment
- Baking pan lined with parchment paper, wire rack
- 3½ tsp Active dry yeast
- ½ cup Sugar (+ 1 tbsp)
- 1¾ cup Water, lukewarm
- ½ cup Vegetable oil
- 5 large Eggs, 1 reserved
- 1 tbsp Salt
- 8 cup All-purpose flour
- Poppy or sesame seeds, for topping (optional)
- Make Dough – Switch oven light on. In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook, dissolve yeast and 1 tbsp sugar in 1¾ cups lukewarm water. Turn mixer to low and beat oil into yeast, then beat in all but 1 egg, one at a time. Add sugar and salt. Gradually add flour with motor running. Once flour is combined, turn speed up one notch and knead dough for 10 minutes until smooth. Turnout dough into a large greased bowl. Cover in plastic wrap and move the warm oven for 1 hour to double in size. Punch down the dough, cover, and let it rise again for another 30 minutes.
- Form Loafs – Lightly flour a workplace. To make one 6-braid loaf, take ½ the dough and cut it into 6 equal pieces. Roll peces into balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand 12-inches long and 1½-inches wide. Place 6 strands in a row, parallel to each other. Braid the strands by pinching the tops together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands next to it. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left stand and move it 2 over. Then move the second strand from the right over to the far left. Start whole sequence again, starting with the outside right strand, until loaf is fully braided. Tuck the ends underneath and place on lined or greased baking pan. Repeat braiding process on other half of dough to make a second loaf. Move to the baking pan with at least 2-inches in between loaves. Beat egg and brush tops of loaves. Let rise another hour uncovered. If freezing, wrap and place in freezer at this point.
- Bake Challah – Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Brush loaves again with egg wash and, if using, sprinkle seeds on top. Bake on the middle rack until golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- If using frozen dough, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.